Hostile Work Environment Claims Sufficiently Alleged; Allegations Include “Muslim Bitch” Comments

In Gangadharan v. GNS Goods and Services, et al, 18-cv-7342, 2022 WL 824135 (E.D.N.Y. March 18, 2022), the court, inter alia, granted plaintiff’s motion for default judgment on her claims of religion and gender-based hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law.

As to her federal and state law claims, the court explained:

Plaintiff alleges sex and gender discrimination and hostile work environment based on: (1) the May 2017 incident when Defendant Niland called Ms. Dahlal a “Bitch,”; (2) the meeting with Defendants Niland and Hill and Plaintiff, called by Defendant Hill shortly after the May 2017 incident, during which Hill stated that Ms. Dahlal, who was not at the meeting, probably would not return to work and that Defendant Niland would be allowed to come back after a few days off from work; (3) the June 2017 conversation between Plaintiff and Defendant Hill, during which Hill told Plaintiff that a co-worker could call her a “Bitch” and that being called so is not discrimination; and (4) the July 2017 meeting called by Defendant Hill with Plaintiff and the Summer Youth Employees, during which Hill stated that being called a “Bitch” or even a “Muslim Bitch” is not discrimination, and that “this is not a hostile work environment.”

The Court finds that Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged hostile work environment under Title VII and the NYSHRL. Though Plaintiff does not allege that any of the comments were made to her directly, the allegations regarding Defendants Niland’s and Hill’s conduct are sufficient to demonstrate disparate treatment based on sex that was pervasive enough to render the conditions of employment hostile for the female employees of GNS Defendants. Specifically, Defendant Hill’s reprimand of Ms. Dahlal for reporting the use of an offensive sex-related profanity by a male employee while not reprimanding the male employee, telling other employees that Ms. Dahlal would no longer be employed but that Mr. Niland would be, telling Plaintiff that she was an “at-will” employee who could be terminated when she complained, and the subsequent comments by Defendant Hill to Plaintiff and the Summer Youth Employees downplaying the use of the same profanity alone or in combination with religious belief, demonstrate Defendant Hill’s and, in turn, GNS Defendants’ complicity in encouraging rather than discouraging the use of the word and the disparate treatment of women.

Though this Court recognizes that Title VII is not a “general civility code,” and is not applicable to “the sporadic use of abusive language, gender-related jokes, and occasional teasing,” courts must “look[ ] at all the circumstances” surrounding the complained conduct to determine whether a work environment is hostile or abusive. Here, the Court finds that a reasonable jury could conclude that the combination of the gender-based verbal abuse, GNS Defendants’ complicity in and encouragement of it, and the disparate treatment of Ms. Dahlah was sufficiently severe or pervasive enough to create an objectively hostile or abusive work environment.

[Cleaned up.]

Furthermore, since plaintiff adequately pleaded a claim for hostile work environment under the New York State Human Rights Law, she has also done so under the “more liberal” New York City Human Rights Law.

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